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Last Updated on: 29th October 2023, 12:00 am
Questions to Ask When Hiring a NYC Criminal Lawyer
Getting arrested or charged with a crime in New York City can be a scary thing. The legal system here is complex, and the penalties for some crimes can be severe. Having the right New York criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference. But how do you go about finding the best attorney for your situation? Asking the right questions during your initial consultation is key. Here’s some advice on what to ask and look for when hiring a NYC criminal lawyer.
Do they specialize in your type of case?
Not all criminal lawyers are created equal. Some focus on certain types of crimes or practice areas. For instance, a lawyer who mainly handles white collar cases like fraud or embezzlement may not be the best fit if you’re facing assault or drug charges. Find someone who regularly deals with cases similar to yours. Ask the lawyer how much experience they have with your crime specifically. You want someone who knows the common defenses and strategies inside and out.
What’s their track record of success?
A lawyer can boast all day long about their skills and expertise. But you need to see proof that they regularly get good results for clients facing charges. Ask for specific statistics on their win-loss rate at trial. Also request examples of past cases where they got charges reduced or dismissed. If the lawyer has impressively high rates of acquittals, reduced sentences, or dismissed charges, that’s a great sign.
Do they have experience handling cases in your county?
Each county or borough in the NYC area has its own unique courts, judges, prosecutors and processes. Brooklyn criminal courts operate differently than those in Queens or Manhattan. It’s a major advantage for your lawyer to be familiar with the players and procedures in the exact courthouse where your case is being heard. Ask if they have worked extensively in your specific county’s criminal justice system.
Who will be handling most of the work?
Some law firms have you meet with the lead attorney initially but then pass your case down to less experienced associates. Ask upfront who will be doing most of the actual work, research, court appearances, etc. You want to make sure it’s the competent lawyer you interviewed with, not an inexperienced underling.
How quickly do they respond to inquiries?
Your lawyer should be readily available to answer your questions and concerns. During your consultation, make note of how quickly they return calls or emails. An attorney who takes days to respond may not give your case the attention it requires. Look for someone who gets back to you within 24 hours or less.
Do you feel comfortable with them?
At the end of the day, your gut instinct matters. You need an attorney you feel you can trust completely and be open with about every aspect of your case. If something feels off about the lawyer’s personality or approach, it may be best to look elsewhere. But if you leave the meeting feeling confident in their abilities and reassured, that’s a great indicator.
What are the fees and billing structure?
Defense lawyers use various models – hourly, flat fee, payment plans, etc. – and the costs vary widely. Get quotes from multiple attorneys so you understand your options. Also ask what expenses are included in the fees. You don’t want surprise charges for things like expert witnesses down the road.
Do they think your case can be won or charges reduced?
Any ethical lawyer should be upfront if they don’t realistically think your case can be beat. While it’s not what you want to hear, it’s better to know upfront rather than waste time and money. However, if the lawyer sees strong defenses that could get your charges dropped or reduced, that’s reassuring.
Will they take your case to trial if needed?
Some lawyers push all their clients to take plea deals. If you want to fight your charges at trial, make sure to ask if they’re willing to take your case the distance. Gauge their appetite for bringing cases before a jury rather than settling.
Do they have good relationships with prosecutors and judges?
Having rapport with prosecutors and judges can really help during negotiations and sentencing. Ask if the lawyer has good working relationships with the DAs and judges in your jurisdiction. If so, those connections may work to your advantage behind the scenes.
What’s their overall strategy?
A top lawyer will have an initial gameplan for attacking your case and getting the best possible outcome. Listen closely to the strategy they propose and ask questions. Make sure it sounds like an aggressive but viable approach versus vague promises.
Will they be handling everything themselves?
Some lawyers bring in outside help like private investigators or sentencing consultants. Others keep everything in-house. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Know what resources your lawyer will leverage and who they collaborate with.
What are possible outcomes?
Every case is different, but your lawyer should be able to give estimates on likely penalties if convicted at trial versus potential plea bargain outcomes. Understanding the range of possibilities will help you make informed decisions.
What are the next steps?
Before leaving the initial consultation, you should have a clear sense of the timeline and major milestones in the case. Find out when the lawyer needs to receive key evidence from you, when motions will be filed, and when you’ll return to court.
Finding the right criminal lawyer in New York City takes research, asking questions, and weighing your options carefully.